conference tweeting etiquette

“Tiny birds in my hand..” by ~Ilse

Conference season, or at least the part of it that appeals to my area of librarianship, is starting soon.

Up first for me is Computers in Libraries in DC, where I won’t be attending, but instead vacationing nearby (since it is so close) and visiting with colleagues and friends who will be attending. I’d go, but I already have funding this year for three conferences, and it didn’t seem fair to ask for another.

Next,  I fly to Austin for the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference. From the venue to the content, this is becoming my favorite conference. I’ve had to actively introduce more diversity to the sessions I choose to attend, otherwise I would spend the whole conference geeking out about use data and spreadsheets and such.

Finally, I head to Buffalo for the conference that shaped me into the librarian I became: NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group). I like this one because I’ve known many of the attendees for the entirety of my relatively short career, and because it works very hard to not be just a librarian conference, but rather an industry-wide discussion of all things serial in libraryland.

It was in the context of thinking about these upcoming conferences that I read the latest Prof Hacker blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ryan Cordell writes about his experiences with conference tweeting and the recent revelations he has had regarding the impact this can have on the presenters, whether they are active participants on Twitter or not. Many things he wrote resonated with me, and reminded me that Twitter — as well as other popular social media platforms — is no longer the private back-channel of a few techie friends, but is a global platform that can have a broader impact than any of us may know.

I suggest reading the whole article, but I would like to quote here the Principles of Conference Tweeting that Cordell offers, as something for us all to keep in mind:

  1. I will post praise generously, sharing what I find interesting about presentations.
  2. Likewise, I will share pertinent links to people and projects, in order to bring attention to my colleagues’ work.
  3. When posting questions or critiques, I will include the panelist’s username (an @ mention) whenever possible.
  4. If the panelist does not have a username—or if I cannot find it—I will do my best to alert them when I post questions or critiques, rather than leaving them to discover those engagements independently.
  5. I will not post questions to Twitter that I would not ask in the panel Q&A.
  6. I will not use a tone on Twitter that I would not use when speaking to the scholar in person.
  7. I will avoid “crosstalk”—joking exchanges only tangentially related to the talk—unless the presenter is explicitly involved in the chatter.
  8. I will refuse to post or engage with posts that comment on the presenter’s person, rather than the presenter’s ideas.

IL 2012: Sensible Library Website Development

Jakob Lodwick
“Jakob Lodwick” by Zach Klein

Speaker: Amanda Etches

Asked some folks on Twitter why their library has a website. A few of the responses: to link to online resources, to allow access to the catalog, to support research needs, to provide access to resources & services, to teach, to help, to provide access to account function, to post events, to post policies & hours, it’s the primary way our patrons interact with us, and as a two-way communication tool between the library and the community they serve. Audience member noted that marketing your library is missing.

While we are all unique little snowflakes, we aren’t all that unique in our motivations for having a library website. So, how can we learn from each other?

Website planning needs to have a clear understanding of scope. Since most of us have a website, this talk will focus more on redesign than from building from scratch. Most people tend to skip the scoping step when doing a redesign because we assume that it will cover the same stuff we already have.

Sadly, most libraries are like a big, messy junk drawer of stuff. We tend to take a “just in case” approach to designing sites. Less is not more, less is actually less, and that’s a good thing. Consider the signal to noise ratio of your website. What users don’t need is too much noise drowning out the signal. Pay attention to how much you are putting on the site that meets your needs rather than your user’s needs. It’s better for half of your website to be amazing than all of it to be bland.

Think about your website like a pyramid, where the bottom half is the basics, followed by destination information, then participatory components, and finally a community portal. Think of it like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — the basic stuff has to be good or you can’t get to the participatory level.

Etches and some colleagues created a website experiment that is an entire library site on one page called the One-Pager. Freehold Public Library has taken this and ran with it, if you want to see it working in the real world.

Designing for mobility requires you to pare back to what you consider to be essential functionality, and a great way to help scope your website. If you wouldn’t put it on your mobile version, think about why you should put it on your desktop website. Recommend the book Mobile First as an inspiration for scope.

How do you determine critical tasks of a website? As your users. A simple one-page survey, interviews, focus groups, and heat maps. Asking staff is the least useful way to do it.

Web users don’t read content, they skim/scan it. People don’t want to read your website; they want to find information on it. When writing copy for your website, pare it down, and then pare it down again. Your website should be your FAQ, not your junk drawer. Think about your website as bite-sized chunks of information, not documentation. Adopt the inverted pyramid style for writing copy. If you have a lot of text, bold key concepts to catch skimming eyes. Eye-catching headers work well in conjunction with the inverted pyramid and bolded key concepts.

Treat your website like a conversation between you and your users/audience. Pages not be written by passive voiced writers. Write in the active voice, all of the time, every time. Library = we; User = you

It is not easy to redo the navigation on a website. Bad navigation makes you think, good navigation is virtually invisible. Navigation needs to serve the purposes of telling the user: site name, page name, where they are, whey they can go, and how they can search. Salt Lake City Public Library and Vancouver Public Library do this very well, if you want some real-world examples.

It’s very important to match navigation labels to page names. Also keep in mind that your navigation is not your org chart, so don’t design navigation along that. Do not, ever (and I’m surprised we still have to talk about this 15 years after I learned it), use “click here”. Links should be descriptive.

Why test websites at all? A lack of information is at the root of all bad design decisions. Usability testing runs the gamut from short & easy to long & hard. Watch people use your site. It can take just five minutes to do that.

We are not our patrons, so don’t test librarians and library staff. They are also not your primary user group and not the ones you need to worry about the most. Five testers are usually enough for any given test, more than that and you’ll get repetition. No test is too small; don’t test more than three things at once. Make iterative changes as you go along. Test early and often. The best websites do iterative changes over time based on constant testing.

Have a script when you are testing. You want to ensure that all testers receive the same instructions and makes it a little more comfortable for the test giver. Provide testers with an outline of what they will be doing, and also give them a paper list of tasks they will be doing. Remind them that they aren’t the ones being tested, the website is. Don’t tell them where to go and what to do (i.e. “search a library database for an article on x topic”).

From Q&A section:
All of your navigation items should be in one place and consistent across the site.

What do you do when use and usability says that you should remove a page a librarian is keen to keep? One suggestion is to put it in a LibGuide. Then LibGuides become the junk drawer. One way to keep that from happening is to standardizing the look and feel of LibGuides.

For policies, you could put a summary on the website and then link to the full document.

NASIG 2012: Mobile Websites and APP’s in Academic Libraries Harmony on a Small Scale

Speaker: Kathryn Johns-Masten, State University of New York Oswego

About half of American adults have smart phones now. Readers of e-books tend to read more frequently than others. They may not be reading more academic material, but they are out there reading.

SUNY Oswego hasn’t implemented a mobile site, but the library really wanted one, so they’ve created their own using the iWebKit from MIT.

Once they began the process of creating the site, they had many conversations about who they were targeting and what they expected to be used in a mobile setting. They were very selective about which resources were included, and considered how functional each tool was in that setting. They ended up with library hours, contact, mobile databases, catalog, ILL article retrieval (ILLiad), ask a librarian, Facebook, and Twitter (in that order).

When developing a mobile site, start small and enhance as you see the need. Test functionality (pull together users of all types of devices at the same time, because one fix might break another), review your usage statistics, and talk to your users. Tell your users that it’s there!

Tools for designing your mobile site: MobiReady, Squeezer, Google Mobile Site Builder, Springshare Mobile Site Builder, Boopsie, Zinadoo, iWebKit, etc.

Other things related to library mobile access… Foursquare! The library has a cheat sheet for answers to the things freshman are required to find on campus, so maybe they could use Foursquare to help with this. Tula Rosa Public Library used a screen capture of Google Maps to help users find their new location. QR codes could link to ask a librarian, book displays linked to reviews, social media, events, scavenger hunts, etc. Could use them to link sheet music to streaming recordings.

ER&L 2012 – Between Physical and Digital: Understanding Cross-Channel User Experiences

UX Brighton 2011 - Andrea Resmini
photo by Katariina Järvinen

speaker: Andrea Resmini

He starts with a brief description of the movie The Name of the Rose, which is a bit of a medieval murder mystery involving a monastery library. The “library” is actually a labyrinth, but only in the movie. (The book is a little different.)

The letters on the arches represent the names of the places in the world, and are placed in the library where they would be in the world as it relates to Europe. They didn’t exactly replicate the world, but they ordered it like good librarians.

If you don’t understand the organizational system, it’s just a labyrinth. The movie had to change this because it wouldn’t work to have room after room of books covering the walls. We have to see the labyrinth to be able to participate in the experience, which can be different depending on the medium (book or movie).

Before computers, we relied on experts (people), books, and mentors to learn. With computers, we have access to all of them, at any time. We are constantly connected (if we choose) to streams of data, and the access points are more and more portable.

“Cyberspace is not a place you go to but rather a layer tightly integrated into the world around us.” –Institute for the Future

This is not the future. It’s here now. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare… our phones and mobile devices connect us.

Think about how you might send a message? Email, text, handwritten, smoke signals, ouija… ti’s the same task, but with many different mediums.

What if someone is looking for a book? They could go to the circ desk, but that’s becoming less common. They could go to a virtual bookshelf for the library. Or they could go to a competitor like Amazon. They could do this on a mobile phone. Or they could just start looking on the shelves themselves, whether they understand the classification/organization or not. The only thing that matters is the book. They don’t want to fight with mobile interfaces, search results in the millions, or creepy library stacks. They just want the book, when they want it, and how they want it.

The library is a channel, as is the labeling, circ desk, website, mobile interface, etc. Unfortunately, they don’t work together. We have silos of channels, not just silos of information.

Think about a bank. You can talk to the call center employee — they can’t help you if it’s not a part of their scripted routines. You can’t start an online process and finish it in a physical space (i.e. online banking then local branch).

Entertainment now uses many channels to reach consumers. If you really want to understand the second and third Matrix movies, you have to be familiar with the accessory channels of information (comic books, video games, etc.). In cross-channel experiences, users constantly move between channels, and will not stay in any single one of them from start to finish.

More companies, like clothing stores, are breaking down the barriers to flow between their physical and virtual stores. You can shop on line and return items to the physical store, for example.


  1. Information architectures are becoming open ecologies: no artifacts stand alone — they are all apart of the user experience
  2. users are becoming intermediaries: participants in these ecosystems actively produce and re-mediate content and meaning
  3. static becomes dynamic: ecologies are perpetually unfinished, always changing, always open to further refinement and manipulation
  4. dynamic becomes hybrid: the boundaries separating media, channels, and genres get thinner
  5. horizontal prevails over vertical: intermediaries push for spontaneity, ephemeral structures of meaning and constant change
  6. products are becoming experiences: focus shifts from how to design single items to how to design experiences spanning multiple steps
  7. experiences become cross-channel experiences: experiences bridge multiple connected media, devices and environments into ubiquitous ecologies

#libday8 day 2 — mushy brain work

Arrived and was greeted with paper renewal notifications covering my keyboard. Set those aside, logged in, and began sorting through the new email that arrived overnight and earlier this morning. Updated my calendar with new meetings/events, as well as the time I’ve blocked out for various tasks for the day.

First thing I tackled was notifications to the subject liasions about upcoming eresource renewals. I’m using the modified annual review checklist and data thinger that I shared about last month, and I’ve received positive responses from the subject liaisons.

At 10, I started my on-call shift for the Main Service Desk. I don’t normally do this, but I’m covering for a reference librarian who has to teach a class this morning. Basically, it means I monitor the IM reference and email, and am available to help at the desk if they need me. It also means I can keep working on whatever I’m working on, unless I get interrupted.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is retrieving use statistics for calendar year 2011. But, it has been slow going, as I’ve been distracted with other pressing projects that normally would not interrupt this annual Jan/Feb activity. Part of what is taking me longer to prepare the annual review checklist & data for the upcoming renewal is that I have to retrieve the 2011 stats and clean them up, rather than just pulling from the files I have already.

I would like to take a moment here to say that I would almost prefer no use statistics to the ones where they only provide them for a month at a time. This requires running 12 different reports for a year, and 24 if searches and sessions are not in the same report. I say almost, because at least I get something, even if it is a royal pain in the ass to retrieve and exemplifies the short-sightedness of the publisher. I’m looking at trends, not miniscule pieces of data.

My on-call-ness and/or electronic resources librarian-ness kicked in midway through the shift when I was called out to help a student download a book in EBSCOhost. We figured out that he needed an account in EBSCOhost, and also to install Adobe Digital Editions on the lab PC. This worked for now, but I have put in a request that ADE be added to the image for all student lab computers.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideFinally wrapped up the renewal stuff plus the associated use statistics stuff in time for my on-call shift to end and my lunch hour to begin. I took the opportunity to enjoy the spring weather by heading off-campus to run some errands. As it happened, I finished listening to an audiobook just as I returned, so I left a short review on GoodReads. The book is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and it’s the One Book, One Campus selection at my university this year.

The next 20 min or so consisted of responding to email that had come in over lunch and checking Twitter. I didn’t want to get into much, since I was about to start my one hour shift at the Main Service Desk (actually staffing it this time around).

Desk was pretty slow. I had one question about where to find a book, and a few people looking for specific librarians. My co-consipirator at the desk and I spent some time kvetching about why it is that one of the highest ILL net lenders in the state (us) is still using clunky, out-dated software when even the most podunk libraries have ILLiad now. I looked at the stats from 2011, and ILLiad would have cost us less than a penny per transaction, and saved the user and the ILL staff so much time and lost productivity. My coworker thinks we’ll probably get it in the next year, but still… I can’t believe it’s taking so long!

Now back at my desk, I took a moment to follow up with EBSCOhost tech support regarding a problem we’ve encountered with the “Linked Full Text” in Academic Search Complete. I’d called it in last week and was waiting for a response. They still don’t know what’s broken, and it is still broken. Anyone else having problems with this?

Next I spent some time trying to sort out why in one month we received two invoices followed by two credit memos from the same publisher for the same resources. Turns out the invoices had errors and the credit memos were their way of zeroing out our balance. A simple explanation or note would have saved me a phone call. Ah, the joys of automated billing systems! While I was at it, I sent them a note with updated contact info, as one invoice/credit was addressed to a predecessor of more than six or seven years, and the other addressed to the collection development librarian who will be retiring this summer. Figured I’d get it taken care of now so we don’t miss something in the future.

To wrap up the day, I reviewed the responses to an RFI for discovery services that we sent out last month. We’ll be having demos of three different systems tomorrow, and I wanted to prep some follow-up questions in advance. So. Many. Words. I know I’m going to need a drink or two by the end of the day.